Elly-ctric! De La Cruz rushes from home to home with elite speed

August 20th, 2023

CINCINNATI -- In case you forgot is one of the most electric players in baseball, he provided a reminder with yet another highlight-reel play.

De La Cruz lifted the crowd at Great American Ball Park with an incredible display of speed as he hustled from home to home in the Reds' 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday evening.

Facing Blue Jays starter Chris Bassitt, who was perfect for the first three innings before TJ Friedl hit a leadoff homer in the fourth, the switch-hitting De La Cruz launched a 1-2 changeup to right field from the left-handed side of the plate. He narrowly missed a home run, and the ball took an awkward bounce off the wall as right fielder Cavan Biggio chased it down.

Matt McLain, who stood at first base after working a walk, darted home, while Biggio threw the ball past the cutoff man and the backup. Noticing the error as he rounded the bases, De La Cruz took the opportunity to run home, beating out a flip to catcher Alejandro Kirk.

“I was running hard to third base, and once I saw that ball got kind of in the middle of nowhere, I knew that I had the chance,” De La Cruz said. “So I knew I had to run hard to get to home base.”

The play was scored as a triple and a run on the error by Biggio.

De La Cruz went from home to home in 15.30 seconds, the fastest home-to-home time by a Red in the Statcast era (since 2015) and the third-fastest home-to-home time in MLB this season.

“He brings an element to the game every single day that [indicates] you might see something that you've never seen before,” left fielder Stuart Fairchild said.

McLain originally thought Biggio would catch the ball off the bounce, and he figured he’d end up at third base. But when third-base coach J.R. House waved him around, he saw the throw from Biggio and knew there would be a play at the plate.

The 21-year-old De La Cruz has drawn the moniker of “fastest man in baseball,” which is true for this season: he currently owns the highest sprint speed of the year, topping out at 30.5 ft/s.

McLain, who also regularly reaches elite speeds on the basepaths, was running at a sprint speed of 28.7 ft/s. What he didn’t think about was that De La Cruz was right behind him at 30.3 ft/s.

“I slid home thinking that I was the play at the plate,” McLain said. “I didn't know Elly was behind me. And I kept telling him like, 'Dude, if you catch me, we're fighting.'”

The Reds had a similar play on Aug. 9, when Fairchild went home to home in 18.19 seconds for a triple and a run scored on an error. De La Cruz, one of the fastest players in the game, had him beat by nearly three seconds.

“Once he was on third base, as soon as the ball got past, there was no hesitation,” Fairchild said. “He was just off, and everyone knew he was scoring. He's just on a different level with his speed.”

In his next at-bat, De La Cruz again came within inches of a home run, settling for a two-out double off the wall in left. He was stranded after Spencer Steer flied out to left.

“That dude, he’s talented, man,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “You think off the bat that, since he hits the ball so hard, it’s a homer, and you think his double to left is a homer. … As a baseball fan, it’s fun to watch. As a manager across the way, you don’t want to see him come up. He can do some things.”

De La Cruz started his career with a 1.074 OPS in 15 games, but he’d been quieter at the plate recently, entering the series against Toronto with a .714 OPS in August. 

On Friday, De La Cruz recorded his first multi-walk game since June 11, his fifth career game. Reds manager David Bell said the infielder was in “a good position to hit,” which the club took as a good sign. On Saturday, it paid off. 

“His timing is really good. He's seeing pitches. He's ready to hit,” Bell said. “Very aggressive, and I think taking the walks can be a sign of good things to come, especially for Elly.”